Sarah Harrelson: When did you first become interested in art?
Heidi Zuckerman: I grew up around art and to be honest I can’t remember a time in my life before I was at least interested in art. My grandmother collected fine and decorative arts – Hudson River School paintings, 17th-century Dutch paintings, early American paintings, French and English furniture, silver, pottery, carpets – and when she ran out of space she would send things to our house. My parents were never particularly interested in art or design, so I grew up making up my own stories about the objects we lived with.
SH: How did you start building your own collection?
HZ: After graduating from college I spent a year in London studying at Christie’s auction house and then moved to New York. I worked in a gallery in SoHo and all my friends were artists and involved in the art world. However, I really didn’t know how to buy art and I remember how one of my friends who worked in a gallery gave me the language I needed to ask another longtime friend – gallery owner Nicolai Wallner – for a discount asking for the purchase of a David Shrigley drawing. It was the second piece of art I’ve ever bought. When I realized I could live with things I loved – not just liked, but really loved – I was hooked!
SH: What was the first piece you bought?
HZ: A drawing by Karen Kilimnik Jane from the Stuttering exhibition curated by Vik Muniz at Stux Gallery in 1990. I was basically a kid and paid $50 a month for five months to buy it. I was incredibly lucky to get it and it remains one of my favorite works of art to own!
SH: Do you have a defining theme for your collection?
HZ: I love humor and people and art that have it. I’m also obsessed with intention. I also appreciate beauty very much. These are all abstract concepts, of course, and at least one, if not all, is present in everything I collect.
SH: Which designers/artists inspire you right now?
HZ: I’m a super ritualistic person and am attracted and inspired by designers and artists who express or share their rituals and practices. Currently, I love watching Daniel Arsham rake his Japanese rock garden and paint Jen Guidi to hip-hop.
SH: What has surprised you the most in all your interviews with artists on your podcast? What was the most revealing?
HZ: I love artists and am so incredibly grateful for a life of conversation with artists and about art. Perhaps the most insightful thing is when people answer my question about why art matters. I guess I’m always amazed at how I feel inside when I hear these answers because they’re so authentic and so individual and so serious, yet at the same time connect to a universal truth.
SH: How did the LA Art story influence your choices or installations at OCMA?
HZ: We explore the history of the institution, the curators and directors who have worked here, our collection and our exhibition history. OCMA has always been a place to celebrate boldness and innovation, and that’s something that also defines California and the people who choose to live and create here!
SCH: What was the best thing about working with Thom Mayne on the new build?
HZ: I met Thom when we were looking for an architect for the Aspen Art Museum in 2008 and have long admired his way of working. Having lived and worked in Southern California, he has in many ways defined how we understand architecture here. Bringing his genius to an art museum, his first, is extraordinary!
SH: What are you most looking forward to on opening night?
HZ: Building a new museum is incredibly fun, rewarding and rewarding, and the best part is inviting people to look at art together and have a shared experience of something that matters so much.
SH: Tell us how you picked the artists for your upcoming 13 Women show?
HZ: During one of my interviews for the job of CEO and Director of the Orange County Museum of Art, I was asked which exhibit I would be curating from the collection. On my first day at the museum, I asked for a list of all the women in the collection and focused on a sculpture by Alice Aycock that the museum had acquired more than 40 years ago but had never mounted or displayed. I wanted to show some things that have never been seen, as well as some artists and works that identify very well with our institution, such as Catherine Opie and Vija Celmins, while also making space for recently acquired objects as part of our 60-for-60 Initiative like Hilary leave Pecis and Lucy Bull.
SCH: What are your best practices for discovering new artists/designers?
HZ: I am constantly looking as I move through the world, my primary way of being is active looking. I also spend a lot of time in conversation, with artists and others, and listening to things that are surprising and repetitive.
SH: Does the marketplace help with your discovery?
HZ: I’m very interested in popular culture and spotting trends.
SH: What current collection trends do you have on your radar?
HZ: I’ve been collecting since I was a child. It was my grandmother’s idea and she started my first collection, paperweights. My taste has always been the mixture of classic and modern.
SCH: What’s the next piece on your radar?
HZ: There is a Lily Stockman painting on my 13 Women show that I covet!
SH: What’s the last piece you bought?
HZ: A Sarah Cain talisman for my boyfriend’s birthday. It hangs on his side of our bed.
SH: What is the one piece that escaped?
HZ: A painting by Peter Doig that was part of the show I did with him at the Berkeley Art Museum in 2000, his first solo museum show in America. It was a beautiful big green painting of a basketball court in San Juan. A few years ago I walked into the house of someone I won’t name and saw it hanging in the living room and literally felt like I had a stab in the heart!
SCH: What’s better about living in CA than CO?
HZ: Walk on the beach every day!
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